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The US Supreme court is hearing arguments over the state rights to purge voter rolls. The case arises from an Ohio voter (Larry Harmon) who was purged from the voter rolls. My first question is a factual one (not a legal question).

Was Mr Harmon denied the right to vote completely or was he offered a provisional ballot?

My second question (which is more about a government process) is: Is a provisional voter ever notified that his ballot was actually counted, and what assurance does the voter have that the notification is accurate?

  • In many cases, provisional ballots almost never get counted (margin of victory is 5000 votes, we have 300 provisional ballots deemed "accepted," so we're not bothering to actually tally them, for example), so it may be a distinction without a difference. – PoloHoleSet Jan 12 '18 at 15:56
  • I understand that, however it seems to contradict the adage that "every vote counts" as a reasoning to motivate people to vote. – BobE Jan 12 '18 at 21:55
  • No argument here on that point. – PoloHoleSet Jan 15 '18 at 15:21
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Was Mr Harmon denied the right to vote completely or was he offered a provisional ballot?

See Voting Rights and Election Administration in Ohio, Written Testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration, Subcommittee on Elections Field Hearing.

Numerous eligible voters across Ohio have been purged from the rolls pursuant to the Supplemental Process.3 Often, these individuals learn that their names no longer appear on the voter rolls when they appear at the polls to vote and are informed that their names are not in the poll books. While such persons should be provided provisional ballots to cast, such ballots were not counted prior to the lawsuit we brought challenging Supplemental Process purges. Rather, the provisional ballots served only as re-registration forms that placed people back on the voter rolls for future elections—often at the same address where they had been previously registered.

Larry Harmon was one of the many eligible Ohio voters who was disenfranchised because of the Supplemental Process. Represented by Demos and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Mr. Harmon challenged Ohio’s purge procedure as violating the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) alongside two organizations: the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (“APRI”) and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (“NEOCH”). Both organizations conduct voter registration among communities that are likely to experience heightened rates of disenfranchisement as a result of the Supplemental Process—low-income communities, communities of color, and the housing insecure.

It appears that Mr. Harmon was given a provisional ballot. It also appears that no provisional ballots were counted in that election.


My second question (which is more about a government process) is: Is a provisional voter ever notified that his ballot was actually counted, and what assurance does the voter have that the notification is accurate?

See, The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, PROVISIONAL VOTING.

Ensuring Transparency and Accountability
2. Record and publicize how many provisional ballots were issued, how many provisional ballots were counted and the reasons for not counting. Jurisdictions are already mandated by HAVA to inform individual voters whether their provisional ballot was counted.

See, also, Help America Vote Act, for general information, or, at the same site, Provisional voting.

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